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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Close fight likely for Kapar in next polls

There is no assurance that PKR will be able to retain its Kapar seat in the 13th general election.

KAPAR: The intervention of the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) in Kapar will turn the fight for the Kapar parliamentary seat into a close call.

The seat is held by PKR’s S Manikavasagam. He wrested it from MIC’s Komala Devi by a 12,297- vote majority in the 2008 general election.

Last month, MCLM introduced Dr Nedunchelian Vengu as the Barisan Rakyat independent candidate (BRIC) for Kapar, taking the battle for the seat to a new level.

The local-born dentist, who chose to run in Kapar, has a thriving dental practice in the constituency and has been actively involved in social work for 20 years.

Kapar is the largest constituency in the country with 125,000 voters.

Despite PKR having won the seat with a comfortable majority, there is no guarantee that the party will retain the seat in the 13th general election.

A local Umno leader, who declined to be named, told FMT that PKR would be facing a tough fight in Kapar.

“Internal problems in the division and the clash between Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim and Manikavasagam are a few things that might drown the PKR ‘ship’ in Kapar in the upcoming election,” he said.

MIC could still win

He said that Nedunchelian, who is better known as Dr Nedu, is a prominent figure in Kapar, especially among the Indian community.

“We should understand that in 2008, PKR won the seat because of a major swing of the Indian community to Pakatan Rakyat after the rise of the Hindraf movement.

“This time we cannot expect the same scenario,” he said.

He also said that Nedu will definitely play a major role among Indian voters.

“Although Manikavasagam had done some good stuff to the Kapar people, it is still not enough,” he said, adding that the current political climate favoured parties and not candidates..

When asked about MIC’s contribution in the constituency, he said that the Barisan Nasional ally was a “forgotten history”.

“MIC has already lost ground in Kapar. The party is now riding on Umno shoulder,” said.

He, however, believes that Kapar could return to MIC if the Malay votes swing back to BN.

He said in the 2008 general election, PKR won with a 14% vote majority, which was considered small in a constituency like Kapar.

“I believe MIC will regain the seat if 5% of the Malay votes go back to Umno and 15% of the Indian votes are clinched by MIC,” he said.

No room for independents

Meanwhile, a PKR leader has denied a rumour that Manikavasagam will be replaced with a new candidate.
“He is doing a lot of good things in the constituency. So, why should the people vote against him?” asked the leader who declined to be named.

According to him, Malay voters will play a major role. Fifty percent of Kapar’s constituents are Malays, followed by 36% Chinese and 14% Indian voters.

“We (PKR) are very sure that 80% of the Chinese will support Pakatan Rakyat while the Malay votes will be split into 50-50″.

However, he admitted that the Indian votes were still an unpredictable lot.

“The Indian community is not happy with the state government. It’s difficult to tell. Based on this simple calculation, there is no doubt that PKR will retain this seat,” he said.

When asking about Nedu, the PKR leader said peninsular Malaysians had no faith in independent candidates.

“It is too early to be talking about a third force. The people are not yet prepared to accept a third force,” he added.

Kiss booted from Jackson tribute show

Members of Kiss perform during the Hellfest music Festival in Clisson, June 20, 2010. — Reuters pic
LOS ANGELES, Aug 17 — The rock band Kiss was removed from the line-up for a Michael Jackson tribute concert in Britain, after it was revealed frontman Gene Simmons has called Jackson a child molester, organisers said yesterday.

The decision to scratch Kiss from the line-up came after Jackson’s fans this week expressed anger at Simmons’ comments.

“We have listened to Michael’s fans and are grateful to have been alerted to these unfortunate statements by Gene Simmons,” Chris Hunt, the chief executive of organizer Global Live Events, said in a statement.

“Under the circumstances, we fully agree that even though Kiss is a band Michael admired, we have no choice but to rescind our invitation to them to appear in our tribute concert,” Hunt said.

Kiss, a rock band famous for such songs as “Rock and Roll All Nite” and “Detroit Rock City,” was a recent addition to the line-up for the tribute concert.

The “Michael Forever” show is planned for October 8 in Cardiff, Wales, and so far the scheduled performers include Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Smokey Robinson, organizers said.

The concert has the backing of Jackson’s mother, Katherine, and his siblings LaToya, Tito, Jackie and Marlon.

The 61 year-old Simmons, who is known for being outspoken, had in the past criticised Jackson over old accusations that the singer abused children. Jackson was acquitted at a trial in 2005 of charges that he molested a boy at his Neverland Ranch.

“The only sexual references ever made about Michael Jackson that were made by anyone, anywhere around the world, have always been made by kids, and specifically males usually 10 to 14 years of age; never females that age or older, and never grown men,” Simmons told Classic Rock magazine in 2010.

Howard Weitzman, an attorney for the executors of Jackson’s estate lawyer John Branca and music executive John McClain, said on Monday in a letter to the tribute concert organisers they were “disappointed” at the decision to include Kiss.

The letter from Weitzman also raised questions about the October 8 show, including whether all the artists booked to appear will indeed perform that day.

And Weitzman noted that Michael Jackson’s brothers, Jermaine and Randy, have publicly said they cannot offer their support for the show.

Jermaine and Randy have said the show is ill-timed because the upcoming involuntary manslaughter trial of Dr Conrad Murray, who was Jackson’s personal physician when the singer died in 2009, is expected to be ongoing when the show is held.

“In light of the questions raised...and the confusion surrounding this ‘event,’ we are extremely concerned about Michael’s legacy, his fans and the public-at-large,” Weitzman wrote in the letter.

A spokeswoman for the concert organizers declined to comment on the letter. — Reuters

Odds against ‘betting for education’ fund winning Chinese votes

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 17 — A Putrajaya-backed plan to pump up to RM20 million in gambling profits annually into Chinese and Indian vernacular education is unlikely to sway the Chinese vote back to the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN), pundits say.

The RM2.1 billion takeover of billionaire Ananda Krishnan’s Pan Malaysian Pools Sdn Bhd by a consortium of Chinese tycoons led by Tan Sri Lim Kok Tay of gambling giant Genting last week, will also lead to profits channelled to “Jana Pendidikan” — a trust fund for vernacular schools.

But politicians and analysts told The Malaysian Insider that the purchase will not be seen as a government effort, or worse, a case of the Najib administration abdicating its responsibility to the education needs of minorities.

“I don’t think this will translate into votes for Barisan Nasional at all. I fail to see any fundamental change in government policy toward mother tongue education,” said Chinese educationist Kua Kia Soong (picture).

DAP publicity chief Tony Pua also agreed, pointing out that “all this time, Chinese businessmen have donated to Chinese schools, so what is the difference now that its profits from a company run by Chinese?”

The Singapore Straits Times had recently cited financial executives involved in the deal as saying that it could improve Barisan Nasional’s (BN) standing among Chinese and Indians who swung away from the ruling coalition in the landmark 2008 election.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is expected to call an election within the year, has been tasked with reversing losses that denied BN its customary two-thirds majority of Parliament and five state governments.

The take-over of the gambling company came just before Najib announced a parliamentary select panel to review the electoral system and an end to crude media censorship this week, in a concession to the middle class and urban vote after being criticised for the security crackdown on the July 9 Bersih rally.

Education has also long been a source of dissatisfaction from the Chinese and Indian community.
While Malays enjoy extensive state support for education including financial grants, scholarships and enrolment quotas in public universities, Chinese and Indian schools struggle each year for funding.

Kua said the government’s cap on the number of state-funded vernacular schools has seen the number of Chinese and Tamil schools drop from 1,350 and 880 respectively in peninsular Malaysia at independence in 1957, to just 1,280 and 550 today despite their combined population doubling.

MCA leaders, including Deputy Education Minister Datuk Wee Ka Siong, told The Malaysian Insider that no concrete plans have been made as to how or whether these funds will be channelled to state-funded vernacular schools.

“But we are always open to ideas on how the government and private sector can complement each other,” said the MCA Youth chief, who has been the administration’s pointman for Chinese education.

Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng said that BN was missing the point of Chinese concern over vernacular education.

“It is about recognition that it is an integral part of the community. It’s not about funds or MCA just speaking up but being treated equally, not bucking it to the private sector,” he said.

Deported Imran seeks compensation

The Hindraf Makkal Sakti’s lawyer wants to donate the money to a charity of his choice.
GEORGE TOWN: Hindraf Makkal Sakti’s lawyer Imran Khan has demanded compensation from the Malaysian government for refusing him entry into the country last Friday.

And he wants to donate the compensation to a charity.
In a strongly-worded letter yesterday to the Malaysian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, the British solicitor also demanded a written apology from the government for his enforced departure.

He has demanded a written explanation on why he was deported when he arrived at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang at 1.50pm last Friday.

He also demanded in writing that the government rescind its decision to refuse him entry and allow him to enter Malaysia in future.

Imran, who has never visited Malaysia before, described his experience at KLIA as “humiliating” because he was treated as if he had done something wrong.

“I am demanding compensation for the inconvenience caused to me.

“I want the compensation to be donated to a charity of my choice,” Imran said in the letter, which he described as “an official complaint of my treatment in the strongest terms”.

‘Deplorable decision’

Imran, who was never refused entry into any country before, however, did not specify the quantum of the compensation.

He described his deportation as a “deplorable decision” which interfered with the basic right of every individual to seek legal redress.

He said that the deportation would affect his travels to other countries and interfere with his legal practice.

Imran, an internationally-renowned British human rights lawyer, left KLIA for London on an Emirates Airline flight at 2am last Saturday – 12 hours after Malaysian immigration authorities refused him entry.

London-based Hindraf supremo P Waythamoorthy claimed that the authorities had deemed Imran as “a threat to Malaysia’s security”.

Throughout his ordeal, Imran, who was originally scheduled to leave Malaysia on Aug 18, was kept at the immigration checkpoint.

Imran’s colleague, Suresh Grover, who was allowed entry, has confirmed that legal action will be pursued.

Imran and Suresh were scheduled to be here for a week to meet potential clients among the local Indian community to be considered as co-claimants in a US$4 trillion civil class suit against the former British colonial master.

They have also planned to collect more historical evidence in Malaysia to strengthen the Hindraf’s suit.

‘Prohibited immigrant’

With Imran’s enforced departure, Suresh addressed a Hindraf forum pertaining to the suit in Klang last Sunday.

Some 1,500 people attended the event, which could well see the return of the human rights movement as the ultimate socio-political force among ethnic Indians.

Waythamoorthy originally filed the class action suit on Aug 31, 2007, the 50th anniversary of Malaysia’s independence, against the United Kingdom at the London courts.

However, it was stalled following the Malaysian government’s clampdown on Hindraf and the arrest of its lawyers under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA).

The suit was to demand compensation for Indian Malaysians whose ancestors were brought in by the colonial government as indentured labour.

The suit claimed that, after granting independence to Malaya, the British had left the Indians without representation and at the mercy of Malay extremism practised by the Umno government.

In his letter, which was both posted and faxed to the Malaysian High Commission office at Belgrave Square in London, Imran said he came to understand from press reports in Malaysia that the Malaysian government decided to refuse him entry, claiming that he was a prohibited immigrant.

Doing a ‘Bourdon’

He said he only knew about his “prohibited immigrant” status upon his arrival at Dubai Airport in his transit return flight to London.

He added that he was never given any reasons by the immigration authorities at KLIA for the deportation.
He claimed that even the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur was never told the reasons when it enquired from Malaysian immigration authorities about their action.

“I have done nothing before that could warrant my being considered a prohibited immigrant,” said Imran.
Imran’s ordeal confirmed Hindraf’s fear that the government would do a “Bourdon” on Imran and Suresh.
French human rights lawyer William Bourdon was deported by the government when he was here to give a speech pertaining to the billion-dollar Scorpene submarine scandal last month.

Waythamoorthy said the ban on Imran showed Umno government’s fear that its oppression, suppression, discrimination and marginalisation of ethnic Indians would be exposed in the international forum.

“It’s a shame that the government had embarrassed a prominent human rights lawyer without valid reasons,” he told FMT.

Fight or flee: decision time for Gaddafi

The battle to control Libya has entered a decisive phase for the Libyan strongman.
By Christian Lowe
ALGIERS: The battle to control Libya has entered its final phase when Muammar Gaddafi must make a choice: to seek a negotiated exit or to defend his capital to the last bullet.

Rebels with support from Nato warplanes have, over the past 48 hours, taken key towns around Gaddafi’s stronghold in Tripoli in a dramatic series of advances which cut the city off from supplies of fuel and food.

Rebel offensives have, in the past, turned into headlong retreats. But if they hold their ground, the end of Gaddafi’s 41-year rule will be closer than at any time since the conflict began six months ago.

A US official said that for the first time in the conflict, government forces on Sunday fired a Scud missile – an act that was pointless from a military point of view but signalled the desperation of pro-Gaddafi forces.

“The Libyan regime may or may not collapse forthwith but it now looks like it will happen sooner or later,” said Daniel Korski, a fellow at the European Council for Foreign Relations.

He added: “The manner of its collapse, however, and the method of the rebel takeover will be just as important as the conduct of the war.”

Flushed by their success in getting so close to Tripoli, some rank-and-file rebels on Monday spoke of attacking the capital next. But analysts said that will not be the favoured option for rebel commanders.

Unwanted battle

Gaddafi will throw all the men and weapons he has left into a defence of the capital, civilian casualties in urban fighting will be high, and sections of the population in Tripoli are likely to oppose the rebels.

Even if Gaddafi’s opponents were able to win that fight, the bloodshed would create grievances and vendettas which could make the capital – and maybe even the country – ungovernable.

“Any fight for Tripoli can be expected to be extremely bloody,” said David Hartwell, North Africa and Middle East analyst at IHS Jane’s, a defence and security consultancy. “My guess is the strategy is to isolate the capital and start applying pressure… They (the rebels) seem to be trying to cut the links to the capital, one assumes with the aim of not having to assault the capital.”

But will that approach work? Encircling Tripoli and cutting off supplies could produce any one of three outcomes, or a combination of the three.

Starved of fuel and unable to bring in more weapons and reinforcements, elements of Gaddafi’s security forces in Tripoli may decide the best way to save themselves is to lay down their arms or cross over and join the rebels.

Fractures in Gaddafi’s security apparatus could be the signal for the second outcome: Gaddafi’s underground opponents launch an uprising from within the city.

Representatives of the clandestine opposition have told Reuters they are waiting for the right moment to begin a revolt. Some of them have weapons.

It will take time though before Tripoli is ripe for an uprising, said Shashank Joshi, an analyst with the Royal United Services Institute in London.

“It is not on the edge of a cusp of falling and it’s entirely possible that many people in Tripoli are not really aware of what has happened at Zawiyah. So it may not yet bring us to the tipping point.”

Gaddafi’s choice

The third possibility is that Gaddafi will decide to negotiate an exit deal. That would possibly involve him and his family going into exile in a state which will not hand him over for prosecution to the International Criminal Court.

People who know him say Gaddafi – beneath his eccentric image – is a pragmatist who will cut a deal if that is what it takes to save the lives of his family.

But they also say this will not happen until he is convinced he can no longer win. His spokesman on Sunday denied there were any negotiations on Gaddafi’s departure.

“If he is going to try to strike a deal he will leave it until the last minute,” said Hartwell of IHS Janes. “He still thinks he has something to fight for.”

The worst-case scenario for the rebels and their Western backers is that the strategy of strangling Gaddafi’s capital will not dislodge him. In this event, there will be a battle for Tripoli and the only thing certain then is that there will be huge loss of life.

“It would not be surprising if Gaddafi were to go out with all guns blazing so long as no deal is on the table and he does not have an exit strategy,” said Anthony Skinner, an analyst with risk advisory firm Maplecroft.

“The colonel may booby trap Tripoli and loyalists may also put up a fight to the death.”

- Reuters

‘Suhakam suggestions good enough ‘


> No need to wait for outcome of panel, says Bar Council

PETALING JAYA: Though welcoming the setting up of a bipartisan parliamentary select committee to look into electoral reforms, the Bar Council said the government need not wait for its outcome to make positive changes.

Its president, Lim Chee Wee, said the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) had published various recommendations on electoral reforms in 2007.

“Suhakam’s report should have been debated in parliament in 2008 and if this had been done and the government was genuine about electoral reforms, the nation would not have seen such a display of discontentment. 

“Suhakam’s recommendations are commendable and no right thinking Malaysian would argue against any of their recommendations,” he said. 

Lim was commenting on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak’s announcement on Monday night on the setting up of the committee, comprising representatives from the government and opposition parties, to discuss all electoral reform issues well before the next general election to eliminate any suspicion of manipulation.

Cautioning Najib against making unfulfilled promises, Lee said the announcement must be followed by “real action with real changes”.

“The people have grown weary of unfulfilled promises, which is reflected in the July 9 Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) 2.0 rally, and through strong and vocal criticisms in online and social media.

“The PM’s announcement (on this committee) is a recognition of this discontent.” 

Meanwhile, Election Commission deputy chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar said the committee augurs well for the future of electoral democracy in Malaysia.

He sees the committee as a “bridge” between the issues raised strongly by Bersih and reforms in policy.

“It is a good move, a good platform for all sides of the political divide to sit down and discuss the issues of elections for the benefit of the people,” he said, adding this is the “next step” to address the demands raised by Bersih. 

Bersih’s eight demands include the use of indelible ink, strict action to end vote buying and corruption, and free access to all media. 

Transparency International Malaysia (TIM) president Datuk Paul Low also commended the premier’s move, and said the select committee should be given the mandate and power to recommend all necessary action to ensure elections in Malaysia will be conducted 
in a free, fair and transparent manner.

“TI-M believes that it is critical that the select committee restores public confidence in the electoral process, said Low. 

He also hailed it as a move that will defuse the politicisation of electoral reforms and ensure in-depth and open discussions and resolution of major complaints received on the management of elections in Malaysia.

Suhakam begins interviews over July 9 rally allegations

The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Suhakam has begun interviewing witnesses for its public inquiry into allegations of human rights violations and excessive use of force by the authorities during the illegal Bersih rally on July 9.

In an update to the public, its chair Tan Sri Hasmy Agam said as at Aug 15, the national human rights institution had completed perusal of the public submissions it had received in the form of documents, statements and video recordings as of the Aug 5 deadline.

“We have identified the witnesses to be interviewed and commenced the interview process,” he said.

“We have written to the police requesting the cooperation of police personnel on duty on July 9 to be interviewed.”

He said the panel inquiry would be chaired by Suhakam vice-chair Prof Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee and assisted by fellow commissioners Prof Datuk Dr Mahmood Zuhdi Abdul Majid and Detta Samen.

Hasmy said the number of witnesses for the inquiry would be determined once the interviews were completed.

Where required, he added, Suhakam would issue subpoenas to relevant witnesses, including members of the public, the media and the police.

Hasmy also said the commissioner would be inviting observers to the hearings.

Jihadi Cub Scouts: Pakistani Islamists Release Video Showing Children Training In Terror Camp, “Cubs Of Waziristan”…

(LWJ) — Jihadists released video of children training with firearms at a camp in the Taliban-controlled Waziristan region in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
The seven-minute-long video, which is titled ‘Cubs of Waziristan,’ was distributed by the Al Ansar Mailing List and recently released on jihadist websites. An edited version of the video and a translation are provided by the SITE Intelligence Group. The location of the camp and the date the video was taken were not disclosed.
At the beginning of the video, a group of 16 jihadists, including what appears to be six trainers armed with assault rifles and 10 young recruits, is seen standing in a semicircle. An older fighter, who seems to be the leader, cites a verse from the Koran that says Muslims must prepare for war against “the enemy of Allah and your enemy.”
“In obedience of this divine command, we are doing this and preparing militarily and Shariah- and faith-wise,” the fighter says. “In this way, we are erasing ages of humiliation that we tasted and in which we grew up. At times we were scared of match sticks, and now, thanks to Allah, here are the children of the Muslims getting trained in weapons that special forces are trained in using. This is an embodiment of the extirpation of the defeatist moral that was planted in the Islamic Ummah [community].”

Teenager Beaten Up For Failing To Comply with Ramadan Fasting

Due mainly to its North African connections, France has Islamised rapidly in recent years
Due mainly to its North African connections, France has Islamised rapidly in recent years

Beating up the kids is all in the family this Ramadan in Culturally Enriched™ France, it seems:
Rescuers found the teenager with the wrists and ankles shackled. His body showed signs of beatings.
A young man of 17 years was found tied up in an apartment in Miramas, Bouches-du-Rhone. He was reportedly assaulted by a family member for failing to comply with the fast of Ramadan.
The young man of 17 was found tied up in an apartment in Miramas (Bouches-du-Rhône), Sunday evening about 22 hours. Rescue, police and firefighters responded after being alerted by neighbours, who were concerned about groans emanating from the house. A water leak was also observed from the apartment below.
Rescuers found the teenager with the wrists and ankles shackled. His body showed signs of beatings.
The victim then told investigators she was struck by a family member for failing to comply with the fast of Ramadan, which began on Monday 1st August. RMC said that the assailant at the root of violence is the brother of that young person. The victim’s family also accused the young man of regular misconduct, such as consumption of cannabis resin. The family, of Algerian origin, were be seen as “very strict” in the neighborhood [surely you mean 'pious'? - Ed].
The victim herself was born in Algiers and is of French nationality. The violent treatment she suffered justified the prescription of 15 days of temporary total incapacity (ITT) by the doctor on duty who had tested the adolescent.
Although it will inevitably be argued by the usual chorus of apologists that this was an ‘isolated incident™’, there is only one religion that incites and offers myriad excuses for Muslim families to turn on themselves.
[Source France Soir, with additional translation by ourselves. Via Islam in Europe.]

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Bersih says ‘immediate’ polls reform possible by March next year

Maria (centre) speaking at the Bersih press conference today in Kuala Lumpur Aug 16 2011.
PETALING JAYA, Aug 16 — Bersih 2.0 disputes a deputy Speaker’s prediction that electoral reforms will take at least a year, instead it issued a list of “immediate” reforms possible by March 2012.

Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said earlier today that it would take a year before the parliamentary committee concluded its discussions, and told The Malaysian Insider that “it is a matter of great importance to public interest” and that it involved all stakeholders including Bersih, NGOs and the Bar Council.

In response, Bersih suggested today that the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) present two reports- the first one on immediate reforms (to be released by March next year) and a second report on long-term reforms (to be released within a year after the PSC’s formation).

“You don’t need a year to conclude discussions. We suggest that two reports be prepared — the first report is immediate, as there are immediate reforms you can recommend by March next year,” Bersih steering committee member Maria Chin Abdullah told reporters here.

Recommendations in the first report, according to Maria, should include reforms like automatic voter registration via synchronisation of the Election Commission (EC) and the National Registration Department (NRD) to ensure 3.7 million unregistered voters are “enfranchised” before the next general elections.

She stated that the first round of reform recommendations by the PSC should also include reduction of voting eligibility age from 21 to 18, reform of postal/absentee voting, implementation of indelible ink and clear guidelines/minimum of campaigning period of 21 days.

“The proposal for the first report must be completed and implemented before any elections can take place,” she said.

With speculation that Datuk Seri Najib Razak will call snap elections soon, there are concerns that  the parliamentary panel would only present its findings after the next national polls.

The Umno president has also delayed party polls that was due in April this year but the party’s constitution requires that it can only be delayed by 18 months, which is in October next year — exactly when Wan Junaidi believes the PSC will begin wrapping up.

“The prime minister has to make sure that polls are not held until this (reforms) are done. Clear it up before elections are held.

“It would be pointless for a select committee if elections are held before the committee can conclude its discussions or present its reports,” said another committee member Dr Wong Chin Huat.

Race relations: ‘It’s rotting’

Sidelined LDP is concerned that the government is not doing enough to improve ethnic relations in the country.

KOTA KINABALU: The deteriorating ethnic relations in the country is worrying Sabah-based Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Responding to Merdeka Centre’s latest survey on “sincerity and friendliness” among ethnic groups, LDP noted that Malaysians were less confident about race relations in the country.

According to the survey, there was a significant drop from 54% in 2006 to 35% this year showing that fewer Malaysians experienced genuine friendship.

The survey also found that the number of Malaysians who felt that ethnic relations in the country was “good” had declined by 12%, from 78% in February 2006 to 66% in May 2011.

LDP secretary general Teo Chee Kang said it was imperative that the government took an urgent view of the situation.

“The government must look at the situation seriously. It must act now to quickly stamp any further damage to the nation’s ethnic ties, ” he said.

Blaming politics for the racial disharmony now prevalent in the country, Teo said it was important that the government stopped irresponsible reporting that would harm ethnic relations.

He blamed Utusan Malaysia’s baseless reportings for causing the religious and racial discomfort in the country.

No respect in Sabah

Meanwhile, speaking at a LDP Api-Api-Luyang joint divisional conference here yesterday, Teo said the power-sharing and mutual respect policy advocated by the Barisan Nasional was non-existent in Sabah.

LDP has been openly urging the state government to correct its weaknesses and as a result, has been accused of being anti-BN.

Denying the allegations, Teo said the party’s stand was simply based on the reality of the new political landscape.

“The situation in the country has changed following the political tsunami in 2008 and again in the recent Sarawak election.

“The urban voter sentiment could be clearly seen. The educated voters in the urban areas have higher political awareness, so they are not worried about water supply, electricity supply, road and basic infrastructure.

“They are more concerned over whether social problems have been resolved, and whether social justice is being upheld,” he said.

Teo added that it was imperative that BN show greater sincerity and determination in tackling issues close to the people’s hearts.

“It’s the only way we can win back urban voters,” he said.

LDP’s less than diplomatic stand has resulted in the party being sidelined by Chief Minister Musa Aman. In the last Cabinet reshuffle, LDP was dropped from the line-up.

LDP, which is the state BN’s oldest ally, is now being forced to play second fiddle to Gerakan and MCA.

Malaysia's Najib Calls for Electoral Reform

Najib will clean up the electoral process
Or is it a ploy to buy time?
Apparently bending to widespread criticism of a government crackdown of a July 9 march demanding electoral reform, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said Tuesday that a parliamentary select committee is to be formed as soon as possible to seek to reform the current system.

The announcement appears to answer a central demand of the reform group Bersih, a coalition of good-government organizations backed by opposition parties to clean up the electoral process.

The big question, however, is how soon the select committee will meet, and whether the reform provisions it comes up with – if any – could be put in place before national elections expected to be called late this year or early next. In that, the announcement of the committee carries certain dangers. If the committee is still meeting when the election comes and goes, the decision to create it is likely to be regarded as a public relations gesture.

Wong Chin Huat, one of the leaders of Bersih, told Asia Sentinel that Najib must hold up the polls until the reforms can be implemented.

Bersih itself, in a prepared statement, said it welcomed Najib’s announcement of a bipartisan committee, asking that immediate reforms be carried out before the next state and general elections and that other reforms be put in place within two years after the formation of the committee.

The process is bound to be complicated and subject to possible delay. The Malaysian constitution must be amended after the legislative, policy drafting and enforcement mechanisms are finished, then laws must be put in place by the executive branch to carry out the mandate.

That will require an automated voter registration system. The government has already said it is creating a so-called biometric registration system which would use fingerprints or other biometric data for voter identification. Bersih, however, charges that the system is open to abuse and wants a system in which voters will be marked with indelible ink once they have voted.

The government took a severe beating in the international press after police cracked down on the so-called Bersih 2.0 rally, blocking entrances to Kuala Lumpur, dousing the marchers who got through with water cannons and firing tear gas at them despite the fact that most were determined not to fight back. Nonetheless, anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 marchers got through depending on who was doing the counting. Some 1,700 people were arrested, many for merely appearing in yellow tee-shirts, the Bersih color.

Najib’s international image took a further beating when it was discovered that in an effort to turn around its negative image the government had paid RM86 million in two contracts to a British public relations company to plant favorable interviews and news stories with the international media. The contract was withdrawn abruptly when its existence was exposed by a Sarawak NGO, the Sarawak Report.

Just days ago, Najib was likening the Bersih marchers to the hooded rioters that torched buildings and caused violence in London and other cities. The abrupt about turn is being regarded in Kuala Lumpur as an indication that the government crackdown and attempt to demonize the marchers has backfired badly and hurt Najib’s standing.

The prime minister reportedly is already under fire from members of his own party, particularly those who advocate so-called Ketuanan Melayu, or Malay rights to take precedence over those of the country’s other races. Although some reports had him returning early from an Italian vacation to put down a party rebellion, those reports have been denied. But he clearly has been weakened from the affair.

“The prime minister must have realized that middle Malaysia will not tolerate a government that fanatically makes ‘clean’(Bersih, in Malay language) a dirty word, and losing the middle ground will erode his edge as a moderate leader in the increasingly rough intra-UMNO rivalry,” said Wong Chin Huat.

It is the mechanics of the process that are important. Although the prime minister said the committee would include lawmakers from both the Barisan Nasional, the ruling national coalition, to “discuss all the questions and issued raised about electoral reform so that a mutual agreement could be reached,” Deputy Speaker Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, a member of the United Malays National Organization, told local media that it would take at least year before the committee could finish its work and the reforms, if any, could be implemented.

Najib has passed the word to UMNO stalwarts and his Barisan coalition partners that an election is probable in the late part of this year or early next. He has been doing tours to individual states to concentrate his forces and prepare the groundwork for the election. Few parliamentary committees have ever completed their work in the space of three or four months, especially if there are members there with instructions to slow things down.

Bersih leaders immediately said the necessary reforms could be put in place well before any projected election. They say as many as 3.5 million voters have been disenfranchised by the current electoral process, that voter rolls must be cleaned to eliminate ghost voters and that the electoral period must be lengthened. Currently, they complain, the Barisan Nasional has the ability to put its campaign machinery in place, then call a snap election before the opposition has the opposition the opportunity to mount its campaign.

They are also asking that coverage by the media be made more fair, a tall order since the major newspapers and television stations are all owned by the component parties of the Barisan. The Kuala Lumpur-based Center for Independent Journalism has called for the government to relinquish control of state-funded media -- Bernama and RTM radio and TV – “and make these publicly-funded media accountable to the public and serve public interest, rather than serve the government in power.”

Wong Chin Huat preferred to put an optimistic face on the announcement, saying that “It would be good for Malaysia, we will have a more logical electoral process. The next government will have greater degrees of legitimacy. If he is thinking of this as a method to delay reform until after the next election, the public will be more disappointed.

Lim Kit Siang, the leader of the opposition Democratic Action Party, also questioned Najib’s action, pointing out that a parliamentary select committee has to be formed by the parliament, or Dewan Rakyat, which is not in session and which won’t convene before Oct.2 at the start of the 2012 budget negotiations. Lim asked whether Najib would convene an emergency meeting of the Parliament to approve the establishment of the committee.

The Malaysian Elections Commission has said it is already cleaning the electoral rolls to get rid of phantom voters.

Agenda merakyatkan Perlembagaan

Sinar Harian

Tanggal 13 November 2009, bermulalah satu kempen yang tidak pernah dianjurkan sebelum ini. Kempen untuk memartabatkan Perlembagaan Persekutuan, undang-undang tertinggi negara Malaysia. Pada hari itu, di auditorium Majlis Peguam, kempen Perlembagaanku yang dianjurkan Majlis Peguam melalui Jawatankuasa Undang-undang Perlembagaan, atau lebih dikenali sebagai ‘MyConstitution’ telah dilancarkan.

Perlembagaan Persekutuan adalah ‘buku panduan’ negara ini. Ia mengekalkan tiang-tiang pentadbiran demokratik. Ia mewujudkan sistem demokrasi kita, mengehadkan kuasa kerajaan dan menjamin hak-hak kita sebagai rakyat Malaysia. Teramatlah penting untuk memastikan rakyat Malaysia mengenali Perlembagaan, supaya kita arif tentang ‘buku panduan’ negara ini dan sedar akan kuasa serta hak kerajaan dan badan-badan Perlembagaan. Supaya kita tahu akan hak-hak kita yang termaktub di dalam Perlembagaan.

Namun, dokumen tersebut bukanlah mudah untuk difahami. Berlainan negara-negara lain, rakyat Malaysia tidak diberikan pendidikan komprehensif tentang Perlembagaan. Melalui Ruku negara, kita berikrar untuk ‘meluhurkan Perlembagaan’, tetapi berapa ramai yang benar-benar mengenali Perlembagaan?

Maka, sejak tahun 2009 kempen ini telah menjelajah seluruh negara. Dari Alor Setar ke Johor Bahru, dari Kuala Lumpur ke Kota Kinabalu kami membawa mesej kempen ini. Ia diterima dengan baik oleh seluruh pelosok masyarakat, yang rata-rata dahagakan ilmu tentang Perlembagaan. Pelbagai aktiviti dijalankan, antara lain forum; bengkel dan pembentangan. Kami juga mendapat sokongan daripada Kerajaan Persekutuan, beberapa kerajaan negeri, parti politik, pertubuhan bukan kerajaan, organisasi swasta dan orang ramai.

Malangnya, dalam begitu banyak respons positif diterima, ada juga suara-suara mempersoalkan kempen ini. Ada tohmahan dan dakwaan dilemparkan kepada kami, kononnya kempen ini ingin meminda Perlembagaan, yang hanya boleh dipinda oleh Parlimen dan sudah pun dipinda berkali-kali. Kononnya, kempen ini mempunyai agenda tersembunyi. Di sini saya ingin nyatakan dengan muktamad, supaya tiada lagi ragu-ragu. Ya, memang kami mempunyai agenda. Setiap satu daripada lebih daripada 200 ahli kami mempunyai agenda yang sama. Agenda kami adalah satu; untuk ‘merakyatkan Perlembagaan’. Kami ingin rakyat negara ini memahami Perlembagaan. Kami ingin Perlembagaan dimartabatkan, selaras dengan kedudukannya sebagai undang-undang terpenting dan tertinggi negara. Kami ingin meningkatkan tahap kesedaran rakyat tentang Perlembagaan dan mendidik serta menjana kuasa rakyat tentang dokumen terpenting ini. Itu matlamat kami. Tidak lebih dari itu, tiada objektif tersembunyi.

Saya tidak nampak bagaimana sesiapa boleh mempunyai bantahan terhadap agenda kami ini. Melainkan sekiranya anda tidak ingin rakyat Malaysia celik Perlembagaan. Mungkin kerana mereka yang melemparkan tohmahan ini tidak dapat memahami bagaimana sekumpulan sukarelawan boleh melaburkan usaha, tenaga, masa dan kadangkala wang demi memperjuangkan sesuatu tanpa mengharapkan apa-apa balasan. Bukan demi kuasa, pangkat atau harta, tetapi demi melihat rakyat Malaysia mengenali Perlembagaan dan mencintai Perlembagaan. Walaupun sebuah jawatankuasa di bawah Majlis Peguam, ahli kempen ini bukan sahaja terdiri daripada peguam sahaja. Malah boleh dikatakan, penggerak utama kempen ini ialah ahli-ahli yang bukan peguam.

Sekiranya masih mengesyaki kami, marilah berbincang. Maklumkan pada kami apa bantahan anda. Tunjukkan bukti kononnya kami mempunyai agenda negatif, lebih baik lagi, mari sertai kami dalam usaha murni ini pintu sentiasa terbuka.

Jika tidak, hentikanlah dakwaan-dakwaan kosong dan tidak berasas di kedai kopi, di laman sesawang internet mahupun ruang bicara BBM. Biarlah kami terus merakyatkan Perlembagaan.

* Penulis ialah peguam dan Pengerusi Jawatankuasa Undang-undang Perlembagaan Majlis Peguam untuk penggal ini.